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Dancing in a Distant Place

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  263 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews
A warm and intelligent novel about a young teacher who throws herself into the lives of her students in the hopes of forgetting the past, only to find it returning more vividly than ever.
When Iris Chisholm arrives in the tiny Scottish Highland community of Green Cairns, she's still in a state of shock--not so much from her husband's untimely death as from the discovery tha
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published April 18th 2006 by Thomas Dunne Books (first published September 1st 2003)
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Dale Harcombe
Rating and review to come.
Three and a half stars.
I bought this book at a recent Lifeline fair because I adored the mauve and blue cover and also I have enjoyed a number of other books by Isla Dewar, so I had a fair idea what to expect.
After her husband Harry dies, Iris Chisholm finds out the extent of his lies to her. She thought she knew him so well, but finds out how little she knew. The debts he leaves behind mean she is unable to keep the family home. Despite complaints from the teenage son
Dancing in a Distant Place was a pleasant enough read, but it just didn't speak to me. I have no major complaints with this book, yet there were a number of small irritants that caused me to dock it a couple of stars. There were lots of deliciously eccentric villagers, and many redeemable sections involving the antics of the schoolchildren. I thought Colin, in particular, was beautifully characterized and written. Unfortunately, other parts of the book were quite dull. I found several of the mal ...more
Dec 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I do believe Isla Dewar is one of my new favorites. This book was a real treat. The writing was superb. Never a dull lag or slow bit. The writing was fresh and cutting. You really could feel the emotions of the characters. The story is the classic widow with kids needing a change of place and heart. But Ms. Dewar tackled each character, flaws and attributes alike, with honesty and clarity. The plot wasn't placid and kept you turning the pages. I was left truly wishing I had a teacher like "the M ...more
Helen Beesley
Sep 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
eh....I loved the start, but it became a bit boring.
Bailey Little
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Though it took me a while to finish this book (busy, busy schedule!), I REALLY enjoyed it. While reading the book all of the characters from Green Cairns (Mrs. Chisholm, her students, and her own children) all grew on me! I loved the setting, the plot, and everything about the book. I will definitely be adding it to my list of favorites and I recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good story about country life in a small town.
Dec 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: préférés
Everytime I re-read this book, I cry when she writes her letter in the end. As a teacher myself, it rings a major bell. I love this book, would read it again and again.
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I highly enjoyed this book despite the opening chapter having me dislike the main character and wondering if I should continue with the story because in that chapter the protagonist comes across as self-absorbed, needy, attention seeking,and vain. I'm glad I did because it turns out she was nothing like that at all. All of the characters were memorable, unique, and enjoyable. The dialogue and conversations of the characters was witty and profound. The only criticism I have is that her transition ...more
Mary Jo
Jul 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The writing was engaging, a charming story. I definitely will look for more books written by this author.
Jill Bowman
Aug 20, 2017 added it
Shelves: to-read-uk
I enjoyed this book VERY much. 4 instead of 5 because I'm pretty sure it won't be powerful enough to stick with me... but the people, the atmosphere and the story were a perfect, quiet read.
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: litfiction, light
I wasn't sure I would like this book at first despite it being the kind of book I usually do enjoy, because I found the first chapter- which introduces the characters we are about to meet many years after the events in the story- rather worrying that by reading it, which was also written in present tense which I don't generally like- the rest of the book would either be spoiled or continue in present tense. Happily, these worries were needless- I found the book un-put-downable. I was particularl ...more
Diane Will
I needed some easy reading after giving up on my last book. This one had been on my shelf for a while. I like Isla Dewar, probably something to do with her being a Scottish writer.

Iris is a teacher. Happily married, two teenage children and a husband she thinks she knows. Here husband dies in a car accident and they have to come to terms with their loss. That seems bad enough until she discovers they have no money, no home....he had gambled everything away. She has to make the decision of moving
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. There were lots of interesting characters, an interesting setting (a running theme with books I like, set in a different time and place), challenges, tragedies, catastrophes, triumphs, victories, small pleasures, healing, coming together, moving on.

It was the moving on that got me, really. It was very encouraging. Whatever tragedy befell her, Iris figured out how to move on, to make things work, to accept. She never crumpled under the weight of her problems, though it was a s
A novel about a woman in Ireland in the 1960’s who loses her husband and has to build her life anew. She moves to a very remote town and has to deal with small-town life in a community where everybody knows everybody. It wasn’t the most riveting thing I’ve ever read, but it was good; the author really does a great job creating characters who feel real and she also excels in transporting you to the place she describes. The protagonist was a confident lady; I liked reading how she dealt with situ ...more
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was ok
I would have liked this book a whole lot better if it had focused more on Iris's teaching since the parts with the village children and in the school were the only parts I really enjoyed. The problems of her son and daughter who, quite frankly, I thought were both extremely asinine, did not interest me at all. Too much space was devoted to them, in my opinion.
But oh, I loved Colin! He was an absolute sweetheart. I think I have a weakness for little boys who are underdogs. (Then again, don't we a
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I just discovered this delightful author. Set in Scotland, Iris is a teacher who at 39 becomes a widow with two teenagers. After the funeral Iris discovers her husband has led a secret life that has put her so deep in debt she is forced to sell their house and move her family to rural Scotland where a house is offered with a job as the "Missie" of a one room schoolhouse. The story is filled with love, laughter and tears but her love of her students and children, despite their issues shines throu ...more
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
The setting is Scotland in the 1960's. The reader needs some background knowledge of the culture and history to fully understand the story. The characters had strong traits and the plot rolled at a steady pace. The only part I didn't particularly like is the beginning, which should have been the ending. The story starts with an episode of the characters 30 + years after the actual setting takes place. I think it would best if that part was last because I didn't comprehend the significance of the ...more
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I liked this one a lot. Written by Scotswoman Isla Dewar, the story focuses on the year in the life of Scottish schoolteacher Iris Chisholm, who relocates herself and her two teenaged children to a village in the highlands after the sudden death of her husband. Dewar's writing style is realistic; it is infused with just enough light humor and drama to keep things interesting. Highly enjoyable read.
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story of Iris whose husband dies whilst leading a double lifeShe takes her children to live in a remote Scottish village where she becomes the Head at the school. Her effect on her children and vullage life. Moving and funny.
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't sure what to expect, it looked like it could be some dreary British book, but it was actually quite funny and a really light read that I couldn't put down. It was nice to "meet" a new author whose work I enjoyed.
Mar 10, 2009 rated it liked it
Quick, very pleasant read, about a teacher who takes over a one-room school in rural Scotland after her husband dies, leaving her penniless. Thought the main character was well drawn and fairly realistic. Not a terribly deep story, but lovely.
May 30, 2007 rated it liked it
This book was interesting and different. I felt the author was somewhat remote from the reader, but somehow I still managed to read this book. It was mainly about what life was like living in the countryside as opposed to dwelling in the city and the new situations the family had to deal with.
Mary Lou
Jan 21, 2010 rated it liked it
It has lots of wonderful moments in between a great beginning & lovely ending. A schoolteacher resolves some of her single parenting problems & shares classroom goings-on to make us laugh & sigh in recognition. I doubt I learned much of anything but I certainly enjoyed it.
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Anything by Isla Dewar will dependably be very satisfying. I read this most recently. About a recently widowed teacher who is shaken by her husbands legacy and wants to make a fresh start in a small country school. It has a distinctly scottish buzz to it
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-fiction
A beautiful story. Well written, with wonderful observations. And a nice insight into rural Scottish life.
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Now I'll have to search Amazon to see what else this Scottish author has written and hope something is available in the US. This is one to pass along to Mom, to friends, to teachers.
Jul 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
A lovely read! This is the first book I have read by Isla Dewar and I found it delightful. Made me just want to curl up and while away the afternoon with a cuppa tea and this book!
Jan 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed the author's style of writing. There were, though, a lot of typos. Arghh.
Sep 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: cultures, women
This couldn't miss becoming a personal favorite.
About a teacher - and takes place in the Scottish Highlands.
Mar 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Catch myself laughing out loud through the entire book, I can't put it down...
Mar 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
This was really different for me. I never read about people in Scotland. I like books that open up the way people are in different places.
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Born in Edinburgh, Isla Dewar now lives in Fife with her husband, a cartoonist, and two sons. Her first novel, Keeping Up with Magda, published in 1995, has been followed by a string of bestsellers.
More about Isla Dewar...

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